Green signal for demolishing illegal construction on forest land: Supreme Court of India

Green signal has been given for the demolition of restaurant-cum-hotel in Bus stand complex of Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh directed by the National Green Tribunal. This decision was taken by Supreme Court of India in the case of Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority (HPBSM&DA) vs. The Central Empowered Committee Etc. & Ors [Civil appeal no. 5231-32 of 2016] by the bench of Hon’ble Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Indu Malhotra.

In the above cited case, National Green Tribunal came to know about the construction of the Bus Stand Complex disturbing the ecology of the area and also violating the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act and hence NGT had directed the authorities to pay the compensation of Rs. 15 Lacs in terms of Sections 15 and 17 of the NGT Act; and a compensation of Rs. 10 Lacs. And the compensation of Rs. 5 Lacs each had been directed to the state of Himachal Pradesh and its Department of tourism.

Appeal was filed by the Bus stand authorities in the Supreme Court. It was observed that the permission of constructing hotel-cum- restaurant was never been granted by the authorities. However the construction of Bus stand in that space was permitted earlier but extension of the space was breach of environmental norms.

Dismissing the appeal, SC discussed the environmental rule of law and the role of courts in ensuring environmental protection. SC referred to the previous judgment in the case of Bengaluru Development Authority vs. Sudhakar Hegde where it was held that “The role of courts and tribunals cannot be overstated in ensuring that the ‘shield’ of the “rule of law” can be used as a facilitative instrument in ensuring compliance with environmental regulations”.

Hence, rejecting the plea of the authority, bench stated The construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex is illegal and constitutes a brazen violation of law and NGT acted within its mandate in a case of this nature, where the appellant actively allowed the perpetration of a structure in breach of environmental norms. Not looking askance at the construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure, in an area which the NGT rightly describes as the “lap of nature” will put us on the path of judicially sanctioned environmental destruction.”

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